All the water signs in the zodiac are represented by ancient, primitive creatures; Cancer is represented by the crab. Like the crab the Cancer type is good at covering themselves with a protective defense mechanism of some sort to keep that soft, vulnerable part under wraps and safe from over-exposure to anything perceived as hostile. So, unless you know them ‘up close and personal’, you may not see the extreme sensitivity of being that they live with. They are also incredibly non-direct, unlike more fiery types. The crab circumambulates when moving, making sure the next step is safe before releasing itself from what is solid. Cancers truly feel their way along. Such subtlety eludes more yang types who like the hare want to race ahead. Tortoise-like, however, the Cancer will ultimately win the race due to their proclivity to persevere tenaciously along and move between the realms of earth/pragmatism, and water/primal instincts and feelings. Would you call this crafty? Strategically so—-yes, but not necessarily consciously thinking, “Wow! Am I ever crafty!”
Like the Crab, Cancers also like to grab and hold on. Taken to an extreme they’re called ‘hoarders’. We have a neighbor like that who is a Cancer. I call his place the ‘little Medieval Village’ because his 10-acre parcel is stuffed with all sorts of things like about 30+ vehicles, multiple tiny sheds filled with tools, chickens, goats, horses, dogs, cats, and lots of anything useable—eventually anyway. We made the mistake of asking him if he’d like our old trailer. Sure! There it sits to this day rotting away. In all fairness, he can fix anything, he is good-hearted, kind, and quite the animal-whisperer, he loves to just putter around on his own property and be the chief care-taker. But he hoards!
Their memory works in the same way. They hang on and don’t forget. Remember that. Be careful what you say or do with a Cancer, especially if you wound them. It will take them a very long time to forgive and forget. On the other side of the spectrum, a beautiful love letter or card will be cherished forever! Dried roses will be kept in that special box. The past will be preserved.
Ms Streep is also mother of four living a quietly stable life with long-time husband, Don Gummer, in Connecticut, far from the glamorous enclave of Hollywood. She’s a real person, someone undoubtedly that we would all like should we meet her at the corner market. Her birth map shows Sun at 0 degrees 43 minutes of Cancer, meaning that she spent the first 30 years of her life becoming true to that path. By the age of 30, her Sun progressed into Leo and went over her Leo Ascendant into her first house where the power of her light could now shine even more brightly with maturity and experience. Her natal Sun is also combust (at the same degree) Uranus, the iconoclastic Promethean symbol of freedom and individuality, so she is no ordinary Cancer type. Her absolute genius is to be that instinctive Cancer who feels her way into every possibility of what it means to be human. As she said, herself, in an interview with director Mike Nichols, “You never know what you’re going to do until you do it.”
Her Cancer Sun/Uranus also works well with Saturn in Virgo enabling her to learn dialects easily, sing beautifully (Saturn in the 2nd) and stay impeccably professional as so well stated in a quote from film critic Molly Haskell (taken from a Vanity Fair article in January 2010), “her determination to be an actress rather than a star in the old-fashioned sense, and to do idiosyncratic, theatrical roles in a medium in which success depends on being loved by huge numbers of people. In her willingness to forgo easy identification, Streep brings to dramatic point something that has been nosing its way to the forefront of consciousness for some time; the whole issue of a woman’s lovability….No one has more steadfastly refused to look like a dish or ask for audience identification than Meryl Streep….The determination to be different—each role not only different from the other, but different from what we assume Meryl Streep….to be—is the one constant in her career. An anti-star (Sun/Uranus) mystique seems to govern her life and her roles, a convergence, perhaps, of her seriousness as a performer and the inhibitions of a well-bred Protestant (Cancer traditions).”
Here’s one last quote from Ms. Streep herself describing perfectly the art of being a Cancer: “I’m interested in crawling into other people’s skins, seeing the world through their eyes, explaining people who might otherwise seem incomprehensible. It probably helps that I don’t try to impose anything of myself. I’m a sucker for the powerful story. I could do the easy thing and not have to go and kill myself each time. I don’t know why I do, but it’s the way I am.”
So here’s a woman from humble roots working hard, using her excellent mind and instincts to rise to a position of prominence eventually in the political world as chief adviser to the National Bankruptcy Review Commission in the mid-90s. By this time she was in her present 2nd marriage to Harvard law professor Bruce Mann. She has continued to champion common people who become financial victims of systems which benefit huge business interests rather than middle-class families. She helped to design theConsumer Financial Protection Bureau after the mortgage crisis yet was not chosen to head the agency which was created to ‘police credit lenders and prevent consumers from unwittingly signing up for risky loans.’
Can you see how her Sun/Uranus in Cancer sense of purpose has worked to protect and support all peoples, rather than the few? Just as Meryl Streep can identify with the feeling life of anyone as an actress, Elizabeth Warren, can identify with every man, woman, and child who deserves the support of a government that benefits all. Her famous words, in debate with right-wing, capitalistic thinking, have put her on the map, “You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea—God bless! Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.” She totally supports taxes used for building roads and infrastructures that we all use, for public safety, and the public educational system that ensures that all children from all walks of life can obtain a good foundation. This is Cancer at its best! I’m certainly cheering this woman on as much as I applaud her actress Solar Twin. Maybe even more so, because Elizabeth will make sure the quality of life is sustained for our future generations.
Cancer Women: We’ve already reviewed two sterling examples of fine Cancer women. This subtitle could also include those who have Ascendant, Moon and/or Venus in the sign as well. Since this is the sign where mother and child intermingle, you can find both types and even both aspects in one woman; the mother and the child. The Cancer need to be needed is a role women can play so well, and whether it is being an excellent cook, as my lovely Cancer neighbor is, or enjoying food, there is the theme of nurturance often at the center of a Cancer woman’s life. She doesn’t have to be domestic in the traditional sense, though she may thoroughly enjoy her nest and her privacy. Cancer women make excellent teachers, counselors, and therapists, especially if they have enough of the air element in their charts.
Cancer women, above all else, need to be creative. The primal instinct to create another life is in them, but not all feel called consciously or unconsciously to become mothers. Many are artists of an extraordinary quality like Frida Kahlo or Twyla Tharp the great dancer/choreographer. Some make powerful entrepreneurs like Estee Lauder with her enormous stellium in Cancer which powerfully manifested in the cosmetic industry. My neighbor friend combines her love of cooking—and cooking for crowds, since she raised a ‘Brady Bunch’ household of ‘his and hers’ children—with her career as a graphic arts designer right now creating menus for industries like Disney. How perfect. Food and magical kingdoms. Another, more tragic friend did all those domestic things like cooking, gardening, cleaning houses, but for professional work rather than for her own children. Her son was always starving when he’d visit us as a child. She displayed many of the complexities and paradoxes of the sign. She was sensitive to an extreme, yet a veritable vixen/prima donna towards others in her own home. She had an amazing affinity for nature and the dream world, yet her life was primarily a solitary one where she often wallowed in self-pity for her fate of not feeling loved and protected by a man. She was moody—-yes. That is a word often used towards Cancers. On the other side, she was loyal to a fault and trustworthy with money matters (Moon in Capricorn helped). She was the classic romantic, the public caregiver, the cry baby, and desirous of being the perfect Lolita to some fabulous young lover if he would only come into her orbit. Her untimely death caused by cancer of the uterus (ruled by Cancer) was tragic and wondrous all in one. There was much drama surrounding her involving one of her equally tragic alcoholic sons, but there was also the love of surrounding friends who nurtured and cared for her with great compassion, including the many hospice volunteers. In the end her journey to the other side was both magical and spiritual with all her children with her as her spirit lifted free from her pain-wracked body.
Cancer Men are equally paradoxical and complex due to other issues. In a macho world it is difficult to own all that sweet sentiment that underlies a Cancer’s desire for being nurtured and nurturing others. Here’s where the shell of the crab becomes a major defense mechanism. Hiding that soft interior under a seeming macho exterior is often the norm. This is true for men also with Mars in Cancer. The tragic tale of O.J. Simpson is fraught with the pitfalls of a man embodying and living out the heroic myth while secretly still needing Mommy to give him unconditional love even if he abused and beat her, and ultimately—ah, we can only wonder how his beautiful wife came to such an untimely and horrifying end.
On a positive side Cancer men can truly take care of almost anything. They are well suited to a different age perhaps, before technology, where the homestead was created and cared for as an island unto itself, or where the poetic and romantic side of man could flower in rich classical music, art, and literature. Antoine de Saint-Exupery with his ‘Little Prince’ exemplified such a creative man who wasn’t afraid to be both child and man in one. Edgar Degas gave himself permission to paint the graceful dancers of the ballet world that he loved. James Whistler put his own mother on the map, and Amadeo Modigliani reveled in the female body and soul with his Mercury/Venus/Sun in Cancer. In architecture Antoni Gaudi refused to use a straight line and created miracles of magical delight in his fantastic buildings. In this modern world we have the musical talent of Carlos Santana who also has that Venus/Mercury/Sun mix in Cancer. He is simultaneously promoting universal healing and light through his out-reach into the spiritual-metaphysical world while continuing to rock n roll as a performer. So let’s praise and bless all the Cancer men who have brought feelings into the physical realm with such beauty, grace, and sensitivity.
On a more personal level I can relate as the child of a Cancer father. What was it like growing up with such a man? Paradoxical. I remember wanting to ‘marry him’ when I grew up. I was that in love with him. I remember thinking perhaps he was perfect when very, very young. He was a minister, the father of his flock. He could be affectionate and even delicate. He helped me learn to paint figurines. All the tiny details he enjoyed with a pinpoint paint brush. He liked pretty things. He was sentimental and never, ever said a harsh word about his own mother, who had dressed him as a girl with long curls when he was a boy making him the laughing-stock of the school yard. He never spoke a harsh word towards my mother either. Yet he had a dark and violent side that would erupt without any logical provocation. I lived in fear of that dark side. I witnessed him whip my brother unmercifully with his belt because he had evidently sassed our mother. I saw him take a tree branch to a little girl who was rather wild and bit people. This was when we were living in Detroit where a lot of poor people lived even long ago. He had an even darker side that eventually destroyed our family. Psychologically I have tried to understand it and heal myself of it all, but sadly he never did. That macho shell of his projected all blame onto others and compartmentalized his primal shadow, hidden well from himself in his unconscious primitive reptilian brain.
Later, when my brother was killed, I became his ‘mother’ and his inconsolable grief poured out as I held him and tried in my young way to give him that unconditional love Cancer men so desperately seek from cradle to grave. You see, our modern world has no real context for feeling types the way other cultures do. In a Middle Eastern culture, for example, men touch each other with affection and probably console each other with equal affection, so it isn’t just a psychological issue. It’s a societal issue.
The United States is a Cancer nation. I have written many articles on the subject, and will continue to do so. Imagine a nation which is ‘Mother dominant’ in the sense that it should by rights be sensitive and caring, yet is now the major military power in the world. What has happened? How did the shadow side of Cancer grip an entire nation to become the number one ‘top gun’ of the entire globe? Would it be a possibility that this is one huge defense mechanism designed to protect that soft, vulnerable inner core?
The Shadow of Cancer is actually found in the element of Air. In individuals it comes out as destructive criticism. In a nation it manifests as extreme bigotry towards any other nation who may have a different approach to social organization or philosophy. In the individual it can manifest through snippy little remarks, or veiled insults; all those little stings. Nonetheless, the Cancer can strike below the belt to demean, hurt, or goad someone else all the while thinking of themselves as kind, sympathetic, and understanding. This shadow side can be so incredibly ruthless, cruel, and cold. Remember water is cold deep down where the Sun can’t penetrate. It’s primal.
The other shadow aspect involves holding on to the past where emotional hurts and slights can build over time into deep resentments. This is actually true of all the water signs. It comes from a feeling that way down there somewhere you’re not really living your own life, but constantly giving and sacrificing for others endlessly. In the end there is a feeling that ‘you owe me’. Cancers want connection, yet connection without autonomy and objectivity can lead to subjective, conditional love. The antidote is to not fall into martyrdom. All Cancers need to learn to also nurture themselves. As they feed their own needs, and desires, the less resentment they will carry. This takes some self-reflection. It takes a willingness to shine the light of consciousness into those dark, basement places where feelings have been relegated and neglected for sometimes years. Shadow work is often best done with the help of another, similar Cancer-type, who is capable of caring deeply enough to stick it through without judging or blame until the wounded child is healed.
Cancer as lover can be quite capable of intense passion just like another watery sign, Scorpio, but inside they are more vulnerable. Ideally a bond of trust needs to be established first, and should that bond be broken it is extremely difficult to ever regain, for they are creatures of habit. The Archetypal Mother theme permeates everything for Cancers, so that the need to be needed, the need to be mothered or to mother plays an often unconscious role even in the bedroom. All those gentle and sensitive qualities of kindness, affection, and tenderness are lovely to experience but be also prepared for other ‘moods’ which may be crabby, sullen, clingy, or whiny on occasion. A cool, self-sufficient type might better leave Cancer alone. Those with warmth and understanding hearts may find a dream come true in the arms of such a lover, for Cancer has a basic and instinctual repore with all emotions from pleasure to pain.
Let’s now look at Cancer with each of the other elements and signs:
Cancer with Water
Two feeling, enigmatic signs together can be heaven or hell depending on the emotional seas both are swimming through at any given moment in time. There is, of course, a natural simpatico here where both have an instinctual understanding of the other. Since both can shift and change according to inner moods and due to outer pressures the rhythms of life flow from one to the other like the currents of water, and are ever shifting and changing fluidly. Being at high seas through the storms of life, or finally in a safe and quiet harbor, Cancer with other watery types is quite at home.
Cancer with Cancer
I looked and looked for a noteworthy example of this combination, but failed to come up with one from famous people archives. I would think this combination difficult especially with two people who are not very conscious considering the underlying instinctual need for unconditional ‘Mommy love’. It could get highly co-dependent. Perhaps there are, however, couples who embody together a caring, nurturing, compatibility where sometimes one gets to be the child while the other is ‘mother’ and vice versa. What do you feel about this one?
Cancer with Scorpio
Here a profound sensitivity to each other on both physical and psychological levels can create great harmony. Together, both are able to tap into deep subterranean water tables of feelings and share them both sexually, as well as emotionally. The darker side of this combination would be melodramatic and even maudlin if one of the partners hasn’t looked at their shadow side.
Cancer with Pisces
This is probably the most psychic and intuitive of all possible combinations, yet it’s been difficult to find a famous couple embodying its more positive potential. Pisces, at its best, is compassionate and deeply understanding. Cancer will find potential peace and safety with such a person. Pisces gets nurtured and understood as well. Devotion can be deep here. Silent repore can be a boon. Like all combinations it depends on the level of consciousness of each individual and sometimes, if one or the other is too wounded the relationship can spiral into a watery whirlpool, a virtual dark hole.
Cancer with Fire
Fire is hot, dry, and light while Water is cold, wet, and heavy. A powerful Cancer type can certainly put Fire out cold, but on the other hand Fire can warm Cancer up given the right mix. I’m sure this is evident in the long marriage of Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, since both have that water/fire combination in their own natal make-up. It can be an excellent combination for creative collaboration, for playful enjoyments, and keeping spirits buoyed up rather than sinking down. Cancer provides a level of nurturance that feeds Fire’s spirit to be even more courageous, and Fire uplifts and inspires Cancer to reach out and express all that depth of feeling to the rest of the world. The volatile nature of the combination, however, is difficult to handle especially if one or the other is moving down and in or losing joie de vivre. Fire gets put out easily without more fire, so it helps if the Cancer type has something fiery to keep the potential passion ignited.
Cancer with Leo
This is the classic Moon/Sun combination where a convergence of Matter and Spirit reach another level entirely. We first saw this original imprint in Aries to Taurus where Spirit descends into Matter. Now Matter (Mater/Mother) must reach towards spirited individuality. In other words, Leo brings confidence into the picture. Leo brings positive activity to the more passive Lunar ruled Cancer.
The older Armani (born in 1934) met the younger Sergio (born 1945) in 1966 (the year everything was beginning to change). As their love affair rapidly progressed, so did Armani’s business. He couldn’t have succeeded in the manner that he did, building to a several billion dollar empire by the early 2000s, without the aid of his Leo partner who brought the Fire into Armani’s life. Armani, himself, has no fire planets natally. Only his Ascendant is in Leo/a ‘Leo Soul’ we might say. He, too, has Moon/Sun in Cancer, only at the final phase, which is always prophetic. He has been a designer for the future with his subtly elegant asexual clothing line for both men and women.
These two were partners in everything, sharing everything as family. Sergio, the Sun, to Georgio’s Moon/Sun. Tragically, Sergio died of AIDS in 1985 and Armani admitted in a 2001 interview that the greatest failure of his career was in not being able to stop his partner from dying. Many Cancer types experience such tragedies along the way. It is an Isis/Osiris theme that pervades as an undercurrent in their lives.
Cancer with Sagittarius
A Cardinal Water sign with a Mutable Fire sign. Does this sound like the odd couple? Think again! It can work and actually increase the benefits for both. Why? Because both are linked through Jupiter which rules Sagittarius and is exalted in Cancer. Both signs often feel a bond with those who have preceded them in the past; Cancer with family ancestors, and Sagittarius with a sense of collective history. Both also wish to reach out towards something larger; Cancer towards togetherness with a more tribal connection, and Sagittarius towards the greater spiritual family of humankind.
Cancer with Aries
This coupling has been described previously in my article on Aries in Relationship. Suffice it to say that here, again, we have Water with Fire and a Cardinal mode. If their actions together create home and intimacy, all is well. If Aries can find some link with Cancer to nurture or be nurtured all can be well. If, if, if. This is not an easy combination. Aries likes up-front honesty. That’s often difficult for Cancer who can’t necessarily fathom their own instinctual motivations. I was a child with parents in this combination, so I lived with it until I was twelve and they divorced. My injured Aries mother stayed single and—yes, celibate for 20 years until she met an ‘honest Leo man’ and married him at 69 yrs. living a pretty happy life until he died 18 years later. My highly complex and—-yes, devious father married two more times, both ending in disaster due to his inability to dive deeper into his own sexual addictive patterns and seek healing for himself.
Cancer with Earth
Earth types make great containers for watery Cancer. Earth provides a solid base within which Cancer may feel safe enough to emerge. The practicality of Earth also blends well with Cancer’s need to preserve things. Together they create moist fertility as Cancer releases living waters into Earth’s tendency towards dryness, dullness, and boredom.
Cancer with Virgo
Improving all things domestic might be one possible outcome of this combination. Virgo is so industrious that all of Cancer’s needs may just get accomplished. Both signs work effectively with children, animals, the elderly, and anything that needs quiet efficient care and protection. This is a Lunar/Mercurial combination that also enlivens both mind and emotion.
Cancer with Capricorn
Opposites, yet yin in nature, these two are both drawn to tradition and the preservation of all that preserves the past into the future. Both are highly impressionable to the imprint of Saturn, so that both are capable of loyalty, ambition, conservatism, and loving the home. Cancer with Capricorn is like Mother with Father, though the roles may be carried out by members of either gender, or with two of the same gender. The main danger with this combination is neediness versus remoteness. Cancer will want a warm, fuzzy world that Capricorn may find distracting from their larger interests and ambitions. Much give and take is needed but both need to be self-responsible first or the classic co-dependent syndrome may manifest.
Cancer with Taurus
This is another comfortable and cozy combination that is touchy, feely and abundantly prosperous, all in one. Check out what I said in my Taurus article. In positive people this one is heaven on earth.
Cancer with Air
We’ve viewed this in my previous article on Gemini with Water, as well as the Shadow element of Cancer/Water types. Cancer sees the world differently than any of the airy types, and values things differently as well. Cancer feels what is going on here and now, or remembers how it was so very long ago. Air types are always viewing life through ideas which should be, or could be, but remain abstract. Cancer’s logic occurs in the gut and their strong likes and dislikes have nothing to do with anything they can logically define. Yet neither is necessarily right or wrong. Perhaps they are both viewing the same coin from either side. However, if Air is always flying up into the clouds, Cancer can get awfully lonely.
Cancer with Libra
A Cardinal combination which could work if both have something of the other elementally. They need to do things together that are both artful and soulful. Where I see potential problems is in making decisions together. Cancer has to feel its way along and certainly doesn’t move in a direct manner like a Fire type, while the classic Libran straddles the fence, sometimes endlessly, until enough information is gained through consulting with others to ultimately make their decision and act. Both signs can be highly sensitive as well and need to allow for differences in style of expressing their emotions. Both can be romantic, however, and probably create a lovely home or setting together that is both aesthetically pleasing and nourishing all in one. This combination at its best reminds me of a Japanese tea ceremony, so delicate and stylized, yet powerful and elegant in a ritualized manner.
I could not find a famous example for this combination, though I know personally of couples who have melded quite well together for many years with this combination.
Cancer with Aquarius
This is a most unusual combination that may not appear to blend easily since Cancer is Cardinal Water, and Aquarius is Fixed Air, yet it does work with the right people. It just proves that love transcends all obstacles, doesn’t it? We’re combining the sentimental up-close home and people loving Cancer with the scientific lover of humanity, Aquarius.
Cancer with Gemini
This final combination was also described in my previous article on Relating to Gemini. Here I give you two more examples from Hollywood.
Whatever the combination, Cancer brings to relationship the basic feelings and needs that we actually all possess. It’s just that they must embody them more fully as well as express them as an energetic truth.
Genevieve A. Vierling C.A.P.